Basque separatist group ETA hands list of weapons caches to authorities

It declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm.

The details of the caches were handed over to French authorities at a ceremony organised by the International Verification Commission (IVC), in Bayonne, Basque Country, France.

In the note, ETA, which is still considered a terrorist group by the European Union, said it had abandoned "all its weaponry (arms and explosives) to Basque civil society representatives" and described itself as a "disarmed organisation".

"This must never happen again in our country", he said, standing by the sea in the Basque resort of San Sebastian.

France said a move by the Basque separatist group ETA to hand over weapons on April 8, was a "major step" and "an undeniably important day".

Spain's culture minister said: "It will not reap any political advantage or profit".

Saturday's handover, via intermediaries, of its weapons in the French city of Bayonne will not mean the end of the group as a political entity, but will end an era of political violence in Western Europe.

Ram Manikkalingam, the chairman of an worldwide verification commission, described Eta's latest move as "historic".

"The heart of it all has been the problem and the stumbling block over weapons", he said.

But Spanish officials have long insisted that they will only consider moving Eta prisoners back to their homeland once its two main conditions - disarmament and dissolution - are met.

ETA said in 2011 that it was abandoning its armed struggle for independence in the Basque region straddling the Spanish-French border and announced its "total disarmament" on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Bayonne to celebrate the peace.

Madrid has dismissed ETA's disarmament as a unilateral affair.

Ram Manikkalingam, third right, president of the Verification Commission for disarmament of ETA, the Basque separatist group, poses for the media with French Mayor of Bayonne Jean-Rene Etchegaray, right, and other members.

It is not yet clear if the process will receive the full backing of the Spanish and French governments. "What remains to be done is to wipe out the hatred that ETA embedded in a large part of Basque society".

"May it disarm, may it dissolve, may it ask forgiveness and help to clear up the crimes which have not been resolved", he added.

The Spanish State prosecutor had been ordered to examine the weapons with a view to determining whether any were used in unsolved murder cases, but whether that can happen now remains unclear.

One year after its last deadly attack, the killing of a French police officer near Paris in March 2010, ETA announced it was renouncing violence.

#BREAKING Weapons, hundreds of kilos of explosives found at ETA sites: France- AFP news agency (@AFP) April 8, 2017 The Spanish government, which refuses to negotiate with ETA, has called the disarmament positive but insufficient.

  • Leroy Wright